03 October 2008

Fretilin President Lu Olo Press Conference 2 October 2008


Dear friends,

First of all I would like to thank you for your presence to cover our press conference.

As president of the historic FRETILIN party, I am joined by the chief of FRETILIN bench and his deputy, and other members of parliament to denounce the threats made by the de facto Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr. Gusmao in Ainaro last Saturday.

We consider his threats illegal and unconstitutional and showed a tendency towards dictatorship.

On the 28th of September 2008, His Excellency Mr. Gusmao said in Ainaro:

“I heard that you are preparing for a Peace March in Dili. I am waiting for you there. I will put you all behind bars!”

I repeat these illegal and dictatorial threats, which came from Mr. Gusmao's own mouth, which the people and I could hear:

“I heard that you are preparing for a Peace March in Dili. I am waiting for you there. I will put you all behind bars!”

Many people and I who heard these threatening words ask, why does Mr. Gusmao feel the need to threaten those who wish to manifest their political conviction and their constitutional right to organize a march, intended wholly as a show of peace and is in the spirit of democracy? Why should the leaders threaten them that he will “put them all behind bars” or prison?

First of all I would like to remind Mr. Gusmao that according to our Constitution, according to the law and the democratic rule of law, it is not he who can “put someone behind bars”. If someone has not violated any law, he should not be “put behind bars” as you wish.

In the democratic state, only the court has the power to “put someone behind bars” if it can be proved that that person has indeed violated the law. It is not up to the Prime Minister or the President or a liurai or whomsoever. Neither the F-FDTL, nor the Police, or UNPOL, have the power to put anyone behind bars without a warrant from the courts. Only in a dictatorship under regimes similar that of colonial Portugal under Salazar or Indonesia under Suharto can a Prime Minister put anyone behind bars as he wishes. In the independent, constitutional and democratic Timor-Leste, this attitude is unacceptable. You cannot make any threat against the people as you like. Why do you need to make illegal and unconstitutional threats such as these? Is it because you want to scare the people? Is it because you consider the people to be ignorant and to be unaware of their rights, or that they do not have the right to know their rights?

FRETILIN does not accept this way of thinking. We must all respect the People, and the People’s rights according to the Constitution and international standards of human rights. As leaders we must make threats against the people as we like with illegal actions and actions that go against individual rights.

Article 42 of the RDTL Constitution guarantees everyone the freedom to hold demonstrations according to the law. This right is sacred in our Constitution and no one can take this right away. International law and human rights covenants, which Timor-Leste has signed, guarantee this right.

No one, not even the Prime Minister, can take this right away from the People.

As “the only Timorese pro-independence party”, to borrow Mr. Gusmao’s own words, FRETILIN has said it many times that the March, which the People continue to insist that it should be held to reaffirm peace and democracy and justice in our country, is a march of peace, with respect for the law and within the spirit of democracy, and with respect to the rights of other people as well as state institutions.

The planned peace march will take this country towards a better future, unlike what many people did in the past when they held their demonstrations. FRETILIN as the historic party, which kicked start the struggle for independence of Timor-Leste will never take this country or the People towards suffering, only towards good.

The peace march will take place because the People want it, and because the People have a right and freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution to do so. We appeal to the State to guarantee individual rights to freedom, instead of warning people with threats of prisons or jails.

The State, specially the Government, must stop politicizing the police against the People when they hold their peace march as planned. We heard Mr. Gusmao's own words in Ainaro warning, “I have told the police that I do not permit any little group from lying to the people.”

Although I believe that he is not referring to FRETILIN, because FRETILIN is not a small group but the largest political party in our country, once again I remind Mr. Gusmao, groups big or small have a right to hold their political activity according to the Constitution and the law. It is not up to the Prime Minister or the President to permit or to not permit anyone’s political activity and anyone’s constitutional rights. Only the courts have the power to permit or to not permit anything in accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Once again I ask, why do you use the police to threaten the People? I ask the police to carry out your duties according to the law and the Constitution, with impartiality and to not fall for political manipulation as Mr. Gusmao so wish through his words.

I appeal to the police that as a state institution, you have the duties to guarantee the People’s freedom to hold demonstrations according to the law and the Constitution, to provide protection for anyone whose right is being denied by someone else. Only the courts can deny the right to hold demonstrations. The Government does not have this right. We urge those in power to respect the principles of democracy and the rule of law in this country.

The Peace March will go forward because this idea came from the people. The people are demanding this Peace March because the People see that there needs to be a reaffirmation of Peace, Democracy and Justice in this beloved country; because the situation of the ordinary people is constantly deteriorating. Although the size of the budget is twice or three times larger that the budgets of the previous years, the people are yet to enjoy any benefit. Rice continues to be sold at high prices, higher than it has ever been although imported rice is heavily subsidized. Who is benefiting from this? Only one or two leaders, not the people.

Why is the level of corruption so much higher compared to many other countries and there is no control from the government? Instead the National Parliament is left with the task of establishing means through a parliamentary inquiry to stamp out corruption, which has placed Timor-Leste as one of the countries with terrible levels of corruption.

If the people are not happy with the government, they have the right to demonstrate in peace according to the law and the Constitution.

The people feel that there is a need to reaffirm democracy and the rule of law once again because at the beginning of last year, there was a tendency to take this country towards dictatorship. There was a tendency in the increase of human rights violations.

The threat to “put all of you behind bars” is not new. Previously, journalists have been warned that if they do not report according to what the government wants, the de facto Prime Minister said, “we will arrest you”. During the state of siege, journalists were attacked physically and one of them was arrested. The Provedor of Human Rights and Justice has published reports on these violations but until this day, no justice has been brought against these acts.

We have witnessed these dictatorial tendencies. During the state of siege, they sent the police to arrest some opposition members of parliament although there was no warrant from the courts for such actions. Is this what is meant by the threat to “put all of you behind bars”?

The students who held the demonstrations because the ordinary people never benefited anything until today but the AMP members of parliament managed to secure a luxury Landcruiser Prados for themselves, were not only threatened but they also suffered the heavy hand of the authority and were then placed in jail.

FRETILIN laments this tendency to deny the People their rights through statements like those made by Mr. Gusmao in Ainaro last Saturday. FRETILIN asks everyone to strengthen the spirit of democracy, tolerance and peace. FRETILIN asks for respect of the Constitution, respect for the law and the People’s rights.

FRETILIN appeals for the ceasing of all statements which are intended as threats against People such as “placing all of you behind bars” or to use the police, or words such as “cannons”, “tanks”, “battalions”, as those used in Ainaro. We all heard them and we are following them closely.

Statements such as these are what take our country towards dictatorship. FRETILIN does not accept it because we struggled to end dictatorship in our country and to prevent it from ever repeating.

It is better for all of us to speak of the Constitution, peace, democracy, tolerance, freedom, justice, the rule of law and the People’s right to live in peace and to demonstrate.

To the people of Ainaro who heard these words, the people from the south to the north, from Oecusse to Jaco, I appeal to you: do no be afraid of threats from anyone. Our right and our freedom as stated in our Constitution remain strong. No one will be able to take this from us unless we allow them to. Only the law is above us and we are all equal before the court, the people or the leader, we are all equal. Do not be afraid of these people.

If you want to place anyone behind bars even if they are obeying the law, the Constitution or democracy, then you should first place all FRETILIN members of parliament behind bars, just as you did against the students who held a peaceful protest.

If we all followed this path, the path of the law and democracy, there will be no prison big enough to place all of us behind it.

Our People have suffered enough; they have been imprisoned and have received all kinds of violations to achieve independence. The People do not deserve any more threats but only support from all of their leaders when it comes to their rights and freedom.

Thank you very much.

Francisco Guterres 'Lu Olo'

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